Category Archives: Growing in Holiness

Finding Freedom: Part III – When Is Enough, Enough?

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.’” —Matthew 18:21-22

We’ve spent the last two weeks talking about Forgiveness. We established that forgiveness is a choice, for we know that God is not a tyrant commanding the impossible; and we defined Forgiveness as “releasing my right to be angry and/or bitter toward a person for the wrong they committed and releasing the outcome to God.”

We have addressed what forgiveness looks like in response to an offence, but what happens when the wound in question is not as a result of an event, but rather of a behavior. What happens when you can’t even count the number of times you have been wronged? The Rabbinical teaching of the day stated that forgiving someone three times was sufficient. Peter knew of Jesus tendency to require more than the other Rabbis, and so tendered the guess of seven times. After all, seven was the number of “completion.” Surely forgiving someone seven times would be enough.

“I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Some translations read “seventy times seven.” The extravagance shown in Jesus’ answer does not provide us a number at which we are free to stop forgiving, but rather gives us insight into the heart of God. Jesus answer to Peter, communicated to him, and us, “your extravagance in forgiveness (seven times) does not equal mine.” His answer revealed that Peter’s question, and ours, was incorrect. By asking, “how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me?” we really mean, “How long do I have to put up with this behavior before I can harden my heart? When can I start getting angry and bitter? When can I start inflicting my own brand of punishment?”

To those questions, this is the answer that Jesus gave to Peter. “I want you to form a habit of forgiveness. I want forgiveness to be the first thing in your mind when someone sins against you. I want bitterness to be a strange emotion to you. And I want you to trust me to heal your wounds, and to execute righteous justice on my time.”

After all, isn’t that how Jesus treats us? He has forgiven us of our sin, but we still lose our tempers, we still fall back into our bad habits, we still struggle with our addictions, and we still cave to our old temptations. God is slow to anger, he doesn’t hold grudges or harbor bitterness toward us. He forgives, and forgives, and forgives, and forgives. May we all learn to forgive like Jesus.

Homework this week: Write or revisit a list of names of those whom you have not forgiven, and write their offense next to their name. Pray that God would give you the grace to forgive. Then, one by one, choose to forgive.

Below is a forgiveness template that I have found useful. Imagine that person in the room with you and address the offender out loud.

(Name), you hurt me very deeply when you X____. But (Name), by an act of my will, I choose to forgive you for X_____. God, would you forgive me for holding onto this offense for so long. Help me to walk in the freedom that true forgiveness offers me.

Finding Freedom: Part II – What Forgiveness Is… And Is Not

 
"This, then, is how you should pray:
‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’ For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."

Matthew 6:9-15

Jesus, it seems, was pretty serious about our forgiving those who wrong us. He put some pretty strong conditions on forgiving, tying our own forgiveness to how we forgive.

We have established that God is not a tyrant, and as such will never ask us to do something that is not in our capacity to do. Unlike Pharaoh in the Old Testament, requiring more bricks, but providing less material, God will always provide for the task he calls us to. Through the grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ, we can offer forgiveness!

But forgiveness is hard! When we even think about forgiving “that person” the pain returns and the wound feels as though it were just inflicted. All of the emotion returns, and try as we might, we just cannot bring ourselves to release them.

It is important for us at this point to properly define what forgiveness is, and what it is not. We often withhold forgiveness, simply because we do not understand what it means to forgive.

Forgiveness is: releasing my right to be angry and/or bitter toward a person for the wrong they committed and releasing the outcome to God.

Forgiveness is not: treating the event like it never happened. Forgiveness does not mean that you were never hurt; it does not imply that the offense didn’t matter, or that it was insignificant. Forgiveness recognizes the depth of the wound, acknowledges the seriousness of the offense, and then chooses to relinquish the outcome to God.

Forgiveness is not: reconciliation. Though there may be a time when God nudges you to seek reconciliation; and though reconciliation may sometimes flow naturally out of forgiveness, they are not synonymous. In fact, there are certain circumstances where reconciliation is either impossible, or unhealthy. In circumstances where the person has died, or dropped off the map, it is not possible to reconcile, and in cases of abusive relationships, it would not be healthy to re-enter into those relationships. Forgiveness does not seek to reconcile, it only seeks to release our bitterness and control of the outcome.

Homework this week: Write or revisit a list of names of those whom you have not forgiven, and write their offense next to their name. Pray that God would give you the grace to forgive. Then, one by one, choose to forgive.

Below is a forgiveness template that I have found useful. Imagine that person in the room with you and address the offender out loud.

(Name), you hurt me very deeply when you X____. But (Name), by an act of my will, I choose to forgive you for X_____. God, would you forgive me for holding onto this offense for so long. Help me to walk in the freedom that true forgiveness offers me.

Finding Freedom: Part I

“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” – Mark 11:25

Last week we spoke about the “one” choice. If you missed it, go dig through the archives to the left of the screen. After we’ve made the choice to obey, every other choice is either made for us, or put into proper perspective.

Since we’ve made the choice to obey, let us look at the second most difficult choice we will ever make—the choice to forgive.

Before we go any further, though, I would like to revisit the idea of forgiveness. Our culture has relegated forgiveness to an emotional response. We are told that it is only when we have “cooled down” enough, or when the pain has subsided that we can forgive. This picture of forgiveness is nothing but a lie. If we could not forgive until such time as we “felt ready” then God would be a tyrant for commanding us to do something we were incapable of doing. Like worship and love, forgiveness is an act of the will; not an emotional response.

Now that we are faced with the choice to forgive, why should we? Primarily, this comes back to obedience to God’s commands. If we made the choice to follow God no matter what the cost, then we must obey God’s leading. But why would God call us to forgive those who have hurt us so deeply? It is because of God’s deep love for us! God wants us to find freedom, and unforgiveness is one of the darkest prisons we will ever face.

When we refuse to forgive, it is not the one who offended that is affected, it is we who were hurt that are trapped, chained, and beaten by the recurring nightmare of our pain. It is only when we obey, and forgive, that the chains of bitterness, and the whip of anger dissolve. It is then that we find peace and freedom. This is God’s desire for us, and the reason for the command.

Homework this week: Write a list of names of those whom you have not forgiven, and write their offense next to their name. Pray that God would give you the grace to forgive. Then, one by one, choose to forgive.

Below is a forgiveness template that I have found useful. Imagine that person in the room with you and address the offender out loud.

(Name), you hurt me very deeply when you X____. But (Name), by an act of my will, I choose to forgive you for X_____. God, would you forgive me for holding onto this offense for so long. Help me to walk in the freedom that true forgiveness offers me.

Next week we will further examine forgiveness with “What Forgiveness Is…And Is Not.”

All Things New

Yes, it’s that time of the year again! It’s time for a brand new calendar; a clean slate of endless possibilities, with all those empty boxes begging to be filled. We are a resolved people! We are resolved to do better this year than last, to love stronger, to forgive easier, to exercise more, and eat less. Every year it’s the same. We resolve to produce more positive fruit! And every year, it only takes a few weeks to get disillusioned and downhearted.

So how will we make this year different? How can we enter the New Year in such a way that we meet our resolution expectations? Believe it or not, scripture offers us an answer. In John 15:5 Jesus says, “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” We abide in Christ as He abides in us. It is honestly a little freeing to hear Jesus say, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” I cannot tell you how encouraging it is to realize that it is God who is responsible for producing the good things in my life. I am only responsible for one thing, abiding in Christ as He abides in me.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, I thought the same thing. What does it mean to abide? That isn’t a word that enters our normal vocabulary. I once thought that to abide meant to stay in one location, and this is partly true. To understand what it means to abide, think about holding two repelling magnets together. As long as you are intentional about it, you can hold those magnets together in an abiding state. But when you release them, or forget about them, they cease to abide. Likewise, if we are intentional, we are able to abide in Christ, and he in us, bearing much fruit. I pray for you, in this New Year, that God would give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation to know Him better; and to feel the peace of Christ as you and I learn better what it means to abide in Christ, as He abides in us.

Homework this week: Read John 15 and sit on it for a while. Read it over and over; break it down one sentence at a time. It may take awhile to grasp, but it is worth a thorough read.

Of One Mind

You’ve seen it. You’ve known a couple who have been together so long, and loved each other so well, that, at times, it seems as though they are one person. It’s like an old sci-fi movie: two bodies, one brain! They easily finish the other’s sentences; they anticipate the needs of the other and gladly meet them; they exude love. It is my hope to achieve that someday. All it really takes is time, attention, and consideration.

Time – In order to be of one mind with someone, time is the first essential ingredient. It is impossible to know a person without spending time with them. I could hire an investigator, and read over the reports, but I would only know about that person, and still would be no closer to knowing them. I have to take the time to be around a person before I can ever hope to know them.
Attention – Now, I can spend years around a person, but if I do not pay attention to them, I might as well be a stranger. I need to be intentional to notice what that person’s preferences are, if I intend to be of one mind with them. Kristin for instance, could easily go into Cracker Barrel and order for me. In the years that we have known one another, she paid attention to my choices.
Consideration – Lastly, and of ultimate importance, is consideration. Without consideration it is impossible to be of one mind with someone, for although I spent time with them and paid attention to them, if I do not purposefully bring their preferences and desires to mind, I will only live for myself. My choices will be my own, and they had better keep up. But if we desire to be of one mind with someone, we need only ask two questions: “What does this person desire? How can I help make that a reality?”

“Timothy, what in the world does this have to do with worship?” Everything! I am writing about being of one mind with Christ! How often do we consider Christ in our daily decisions? First we have to know Him. This is why time in Scripture and prayer are essential! Through those spiritual disciplines, we learn about Christ’s character, His habits, and desires. Once we know what is important to God, then we can begin to consider Him in our choices.

Homework this week: Ask yourselves two questions about your daily decisions. “What does God desire in this decision?” and “What can I do to help make that a reality?”
For extra credit, read “Practicing the Presence of God” by Brother Lawrence.
…your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:10